May 18, 1999
Some folks were sitting around the other day talking about Perry's pluses and minuses, tossing out ideas as they occurred to them. It was a good mixture -- teen-agers, seniors, in-between, male, female; a cross-section of local demographics. The conversation kept drifting back to the lack of two important ingredients in Perry -- movies and a teen hangout. We haven't had either one for some time now.
You've heard both topics discussed many times. What surprised me in this dialogue was the general consensus that a movie theater in Perry would have a reasonable chance of succeeding. It was pointed out that another town not too far from here, with a thousand less population than Perry, has a film house open seven nights a week and it draws consistently good crowds. The features are primarily current releases. Nearest competition is in a town more than twice that size, about 25 miles away. In other words, the situation is much like ours. Would it pay off here? The adult ticket price is $3. That's a better bargain than you'll find in some of our neighboring towns. Add to that the cost of filling the gas tank for an out of town trip and perhaps a meal or a snack, plus admission or a baby sitter for the children, and you have a pretty hefty tab for the evening.
The old Perry Theater on Sixth street, now the location of the Exchange Bank & Trust Co. drive-through facility, was torn down years ago. That was our last film palace. The last recreation center, a commercial enterprise aimed specifically at teen-agers, closed a few months ago.
In years past Perry has had a Teen Town or something of the sort, operated by young people with the help of a handful of parents and other adults. They offered a small dance floor, a jukebox, soft drinks, candy bars and sometimes homemade cookies. The emphasis was on a retreat where teen-agers could enjoy themselves in a safe, clean and wholesome atmosphere. Centers like that are in the distant past here. That's one of the reasons many of our young men and women say they can hardly wait to complete their high school education and leave Perry. If they do, they will be passing up an opportunity to find gainful, lifetime employment right here in a small town. There are many advantages to that but they may not be apparent to those who are just beginning a career.
Maybe another Teen Town would not be acceptable in this day and age, but a variation of some kind might fill a need for our young people. Movies are wildly successful in this age of multiple screen theaters. We don't need that, but perhaps a small, single-screen theater with reasonably current attractions would earn a profit. I'm a movie buff and I would much prefer driving downtown to see a film instead of going to Stillwater, Enid, Ponca City or Oklahoma City.
This is not intended to inspire some enterprising entrepreneur with a little risk capital to start drawing up plans, but both a teen center and a small movie theater seem to be ideas worth looking into again. A movie theater and a teen center. Has the time come again for both of them in Perry America? What do you think?